News Articles

CBF workshops explore variety of topics

WASHINGTON (BP)–The relationship between faith and politics, defining who is an evangelical and the status of Baptist women in ministry were among the topics discussed at workshops conducted during the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly June 28-29 in Washington, D.C.

Though the workshops are advertised as part of the General Assembly program, the CBF Resource guide claims, “The opinions and views presented in General Assembly ministry workshops are those of the workshop presenters and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of, or endorsement by, the Fellowship or its members.”


Baptists must move away from focusing their concern on issues such as abortion, stem cell research and “gay marriage” and turn increasingly to issues of social and economic justice, according to a DVD, titled “Golden Rule Politics,” shown June 29 at a workshop hosted by the Baptist Center for Ethics (BCE).

The film featured interviews with state and national legislators who are members of the Democrat Party and identify themselves as Christians. Criticizing the “religious right” for defining too narrowly the issues that should be important to believers, the film also included interviews with ministers from various Christian denominations. The political affiliation of the ministers was never identified, though many criticized conservative evangelicals.

Richard Land, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were among those depicted as attempting to co-opt Christianity for the Republican Party. At one point the film displayed a quotation from Land on the screen, drawing laughter from the audience. Land serves as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

During a panel discussion at the end of the workshop, multiple attendees expressed concern that not a single Republican politician was featured in the film.

“If I play this in my church, which is about 90 percent Republican, they’re not going to see Republican voices on this video,” one attendee said. “Were you unable to find voices in the Republican Party that seemed to have this sensibility in terms of separation of church and state?”

Robert Parham, executive director of the BCE, responded that the production team attempted to include one “prominent moderate Republican,” who declined to participate.

“We think it’s important that, in order to challenge a prevailing 25-year myth, which is that GOP stands for God’s Own Party, we have to challenge that myth and introduce a new story into our culture, which is what we’re trying to do,” Parham said.

“And in terms of introducing the new story in the culture, we think that the big Bible — which I think most of us read from — that the big Bible addresses a lot of issues and not just two or three issues.”

Among the Democratic legislators featured were Harold Ford Jr., a former congressman from Tennessee, and Lincoln Davis, current representative from Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District.

“Now if you say you believe in protecting life from the womb, then that means from conception until death,” Davis said. “That means that you have to support Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food, healthcare, labor laws, education.”

One minister on the film called the war in Iraq an important issue for Christians. “This war we’re in in Iraq is as immoral as a war can be,” he said.


The term evangelical refers to a diverse group of Christians who share a common core of beliefs, said Philip Wise and Fisher Humphreys in a workshop June 28.

Those within the Reformation tradition, Wesleyans, Pentecostals and charismatics and the SBC all fall within the evangelical tradition, Wise, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas, said.

Humphreys, professor of theology at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., classified evangelicalism as holding a common core of basic Christian beliefs, Protestantism, revivalism, post-fundamentalism and including revisionist theologians.

In a question-and-answer session, Wise noted that some more moderate evangelicals call themselves inerrantists although they do not define the Bible’s inerrancy in the way it is traditionally defined.

“For me, to be a part of the Evangelical Theological Society, for instance, or NAE, you have to be an inerrantist,” Wise said. “I’m not an inerrantist. That makes you jump ship pretty quick. The truth is a lot of the people who are in that movement are not inerrantists either — not in any meaningful sense. But they hang on to the word.”

Humphreys said that Christians did not think of the Bible as totally without error until the 1700s.

“Protestants say the Bible alone is the Word of God in a way that church decisions and councils and creeds are not,” Humphreys said. “Fundamentalism adds something else to that — something in my judgment not found before the early 18th century — and that is that the original manuscripts of the Bible … had no errors of any kind whatsoever in any subject whatsoever on which the Bible touched.”

Humphreys warned Fellowship Baptists that they must guard against allowing their theological positions to move into the realm of secularism.

“In my judgment Fellowship Baptists have relatively equivalent theological affinities with mainline Protestants — what you might call the moderate to left wing of evangelicalism, like Roger Olson and Stanley Grenz — and with the moderate to right wing of mainline Protestantism,” he said.

“If we have a risk, we are not going to become fundamentalists. We are inoculated. It’s not going to take. We’re safe. The risk of secularism — and I’m not saying we’re about to fall into it — but it is a serious thing for us. And we need to take it seriously.”


Although 95 percent of CBF church members would be open to calling a woman to pastor their church, there are still very few female pastors in Baptist life, according to “The State of Women in Baptist Life 2006,” a report presented by Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) at a workshop June 28.

Authored by Eileen Campbell-Reed and Pamela Durso, the report compiled a range of data on various Baptist groups, including data from surveys conducted by BWIM.

“The SWBL Survey clearly revealed a disjuncture between the overwhelming personal support for clergywomen offered by respondents and the actual number of ordained women who are serving in ministry roles such as pastor, chaplain, or denominational executive,” the report said.

Only 6.2 percent of CBF churches and 9.1 percent of American Baptist Churches, USA are pastored by women “at best,” according to the report.

SBC church members were least likely of any group included in the report to prefer a woman pastor. One in five lay members of CBF churches would prefer a woman pastor, the report said.